Hard Work and Imagination with a Bit of Gold Thrown In

It’s a little known historical fact that without Clara Saunders Paddy Hannan would not have survived to discover the Golden Mile

After the intense concentration of two major edits, when everything has to be revisited and all the details of characters, plot, setting, grammar, style and syntax must be agreed upon, it was great to take a break, briefly, and go back out to the scene of the action; to soak up the atmosphere and relive the original story. Of course the town of Coolgardie, where the events of Goldfields Girl happened between 1892 and 1894, is very different today. The magnificent stone Warden’s Court Building, which was not yet built when Clara was there, is now one of the few remaining signs of the fabulous wealth and prosperity that gold brought to the town. However, if you step inside this imposing building you will immediately be transported back to that other world. The one where red dirt, backbreaking work and the struggle to survive without water greeted Clara every day – and yet she thrived.

In spite of the fortunes being won and lost around her, Clara’s life was a constant struggle. And yet  she loved it. She love the freedom, the challenge, the camaraderie that shared hardship often creates. There were regular dances, sing-a-longs, picnics and poetry readings. And she made life-long friends. In spite of their hard working, hard drinking lifestyle the miners and prospectors had their own rules. For the community to exist the means of survival had to be shared. Everyone was in the same situation and it was taken for granted that none of the locals would be allowed to starve or die of thirst. Illness and death were regarded as inevitable, but with courage, determination and a little help from their friends, it would be thwarted for as long as humanly possible. Most sustaining of all was the bush humour that was born, and continued to grow, out of this harsh landscape and the friendship of mates.

Even visiting Coolgardie today in a  modern hire-car with its own air-conditioning, one can not help marvelling at the imagination and inventiveness of those hardy pioneers. When you remember that everything to sustain life had to be carried for 168 miles to the new diggings, initially over trackless desert, or improvised from whatever could be scrounged or salvaged. From the smallest kitchen implements to the largest tools for mining and building, things were made by hand, cobbled together out of packing cases, wooden boxes, kerosene tins. But their hard work and imagination laid the foundations for many of the mind-boggling inventions that have transformed life on the goldfields.

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